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PowerPoint and Presenting Blog: March 2008

Thoughts and impressions of whatever is happening in the world of PowerPoint

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Mix and Mash Online Video Clips with Omnisio

Monday, March 31, 2008
posted by Geetesh on 12:29 PM IST

Omnisio, a new startup allows you to mix and mash videos from several online video sites like YouTube, Google, and to create new videos. You can choose start and end points to trim the existing video clips, combine them in a sequence you want, and create a new online video clip that you can share.

Mashed videos on Omnisio

These shared clips are entirely embeddable -- and you can have comments that actually hover over the video on these shared clips (see screenshot above). Many users find this distracting, so it's nice that you can turn them off.

More importantly Omnisio is about to introduce new features soon that will allow you to synchronize PowerPoint slides with video -- this will take Omnisio to the professional league.

Membership is free and very quick -- and you don't even need to be a member to view some sample clips. The clips are great -- and can allow you to get hours of fun.

Learn more at the Omnisio site...

Categories: movies, online_presentations, powerpoint, , youtube

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Saturday, March 29, 2008
posted by Geetesh on 1:22 PM IST

This guest post is by Daniel Park, author of Camtasia Studio: The Definitive Guide. Daniel has just launched a new screencasting newsletter, and this is an excerpt from the first issue -- make sure you subscribe to The Screencaster...

The other day, I got a solid lesson in good screencasting from a most unexpected place.

Most Americans, at some point in their academic careers (could be high school, college, or in my case, both), have an English composition class foisted upon them by the local administration. This is done with the supposed motivation of churning out graduates who can express themselves succintly and coherently in written form. Persons armed with this knowlege will be able to master business reports, research studies, doctoral dissertations, you name it.

Or, at the very least, have the most eloquently written MacDonald's employment application on the block...

One text that's basically regarded as standard issue in these courses is The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White, and has been thus since its initial publication in 1959. I bought my first copy back in 1989, when the book was a mere pup at the tender age of 30. In its nearly 50 years on the shelves, this tiny grey paperback has prevented millions of grammatical foibles the world over, defusing everything from awkward sentence structure to the careless use of non-words like irregardless.

I recently pulled my dog-eared copy of the shelf in an attempt to decide the correctness between "None of us were there" and "None of us was there" (it's the latter, by the way), when I came across an essay at the back that I hadn't remembered. It was called "An Approach to Style," and moved away from the specific prescriptivist "grammar police" ruleset that comprised most of the book, and instead just offered up a list of basic guidelines to bear in mind when communicating with words.

I was astounded by how many of these suggestions were readily applicable to narrated visual media as well, despite the fact that it was written a good 45 years before Jon Udell ever coined the term "screencast." I wanted to share a few of these with you.

Place yourself in the background. "Write in a way that draws the reader's attention to the sense and substance of the writing, rather than the mood and temper of the author."

This is a particularly sticky one for marketing screencasters. When crafting a video advertisement or marketing spot, it's vitally important to focus on your audience. Their lives, their problems. With luck, you can be there to offer the solution. There are instances (such as this newsletter), where it's appropriate for the author to be more "present" within the content. But you can't ever lose sight of your users and the benefit to their lives that you're attempting to bring to the table. More on this next month.

Do not overwrite. And this goes hand-in-hand with two other basic tenets of theirs, Write in a way that comes naturally and Avoid fancy words. "Rich, ornate prose is hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating."

As you write your narration script, you must take care to avoid the kind of thick, jumbled wordiness that makes your video impossible to penetrate without a dictionary in hand. Most people won't bother, so don't use a 75-cent word when a 10-cent one will do. This goes doubly for industry terms and other technical jargon. Only use a technical term when no other more common replacement exists, and when you're certain that at least 95% of your audience will understand it. Take a second in your narration to clarify the term if you're not sure.

Do not explain too much. "It is seldom advisable to tell all."

Amen, brothers. Amateur screencasters often make the classic rookie mistake of explaining every field and button. Even a comprehensive tutorial should exist to show completion of a given task or set of tasks. Clarify only those features and aspects of the application that are directly involved in getting the user from point A to point B. In screencasting, the hackneyed slang phrase "Too much information!" really does apply, so don't inundate your audience with a lot of extraneous info.

Revise and rewrite. "Revising is part of writing. Few writers are so expert that they can produce what they are after on the first try."

Revision is a necessity in the screencast production process. If possible, try to segment your revision as much as possible. What does this mean? Well, take a quick look at my workflow, which generally goes something like this:

Write narration > Craft storyboard > Record footage > Edit silent cut > Record and clean up narration > Produce final output

You should be giving the decision-makers (clients, managers, etc.) access to your work at nearly every point in this process. If there's an unnecessary paragraph in your narration, it's a lot easier to correct early on, when it's just words on paper. If something's destined to get the ax, you're wasting valuable time by coming up with visuals, recording clips, and cutting it all together.

Don't overstate. "When you overstate, readers will be instantly on guard, and everything that has preceded your overstatement as well as everything that follows will be suspect in their minds because they have lost confidence in your judgment or your poise."

Overstatements are dangerous territory, particularly for marketing screencasts. Yes, you want to convey the benefit of your product or service, and yes, those benefits should be as compelling as possible. Just don't promise them the moon. Or, promise them the moon, provided you're ready to deliver on that promise and you can provide good testimonials and other proof that you're not just full of hot air.

Good stuff. The advice of these two men from nearly a half century ago is as relevant as ever to those of us who create content for a living.

Categories: books, delivery, opinion

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Friday, March 28, 2008
posted by Geetesh on 3:28 PM IST

For organizations and individuals who have been creating PowerPoint presentations for years, these presentations represent a very significant pool of content that needs to be synergised for reuse and reference -- aiding in the creation of new slide content.

Cataloging your presentations to the slide level is therefore a very important aspect of slide management, and our review product does just that and more.

Read the full review...

Categories: add-in, powerpoint, slide_management

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posted by Geetesh on 12:58 PM IST

This is among the most interesting and original uses for PowerPoint that I have read about.

Jill White, who has finished 10 years of teaching with Memphis City Schools uses PowerPoint with first graders so that they can add their poetry to PowerPoint slides with a picture. This works great because it's the first time the children use PowerPoint -- so it's nice to start with simple stuff. These poetry slides then make great presentations to show at Open Houses, parent meetings, school meetings, and even district-wide meetings.

Read more on the Scholastic site...

Categories: case_studies, powerpoint

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posted by Geetesh on 11:49 AM IST

SlideRocket gets more exposure each day -- and the product gets better too. I have been working with this online presentation product for a long while now, and the implementation is awesome.

I do miss a few things -- surprisingly, I miss PowerPoint 2007's tabbed Ribbon interface since SlideRocket options do require many clicks. And I wish they built in some Flickr authorization so that I can access all my Flickr photos from my account. As of now, I can only access the public photos. And my minor rants may not be too fair, since this is still a beta product.

The screenshot below shows the SlideRocket interface -- click on the screenshot to view a larger picture.

Working with Slides in SlideRocket

SlideRocket is based on Adobe's Flex technology, and Josh Catone provides a great intro to the underlying architecture of SlideRocket on his ReadWriteWeb blog...

Josh Lowensohn provides another walkthrough on the Webware site...

If you want to see a sample presentation, here's a quick one-slide presentation that I made...

Categories: online_presentations, powerpoint

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Thursday, March 27, 2008
posted by Geetesh on 5:20 PM IST

Ppted released a new PowerPoint template set -- this one is called Telecommunications. Not only do you get five great template designs, you also get the actual backgrounds so that you can use the same designs elsewhere. In this collection, you also get wide screen templates and backgrounds, and ten transparent PNGs you can use in your presentations -- at no extra cost.


Transparent PNGs

None of the templates at are free -- these are all designer templates. I just wanted to say that because lots of readers write in to say that their Indezine passwords don't let them download all the Ppted templates for free!

Categories: powerpoint, templates

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posted by Geetesh on 2:35 PM IST

Scott Schwertly of Ethos3 recently interviewed me in the first of his series on 7 Questions -- this interview can be found on his new Storybored blog...

Interview on Storybored

Categories: interviews, powerpoint

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posted by Geetesh on 1:15 PM IST

I ran into this excellent post by Cory Bohon on automating PowerPoint 2008 on the Mac using the Automator program built within the Mac OS X. This may prove a great starting point for automating PowerPoint on the Mac since this new version (PowerPoint 2008) no longer provides VBA programming support.

Read on The Unofficial Apple Weblog site...

Categories: templates, powerpoint

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posted by Geetesh on 12:53 PM IST

Scrapblog is an awesome site that lets you create online digital scrapbooks -- and it works so much like PowerPoint! They have added a slew of new improvements:

Photo Cropping:
The new photo cropping options now allow you to crop to cookie cutter shapes like circles, rectangles, and stars. There's also a freehand scissors tool that lets you cut edges any way you want. And an eraser option lets you erase areas of photos as required!

Photo Cropping on Scrapblog

Photo Editing: Scrapblog now provides one-click effects -- these effects include 12 new built-in effects like black and white, sepia, antique, matte, vignette, a comic book effect, and even the ability to flip your photo. There are also advanced options that allow you to adjust the contrast, saturation, tint, or other fine grained settings.

Photo Editing on Scrapblog

New Themes: Scrapblog now also provides new themes, stickers, backgrounds and frames.

Stickers on Scrapblog

Categories: online_presentations, powerpoint

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008
posted by Geetesh on 4:37 PM IST

Doing makeovers of slides is such a satisfying task – maybe that is because removing the ugly and replacing it with near perfection is a reward in itself. Over the years, I have understood that the approach required to do any actual makeover is never the same – in the same way as the fingerprints of two humans don’t match, the approaches required to do various makeovers are dissimilar.

Suggesting makeover approaches is a large part of my work – that’s why I find it amusing to hear new schools of thought in the presentation sphere that promise to be a solution to all slide problems. These beliefs range from the no-bullet approach for slides to the total denouncement of slideware. Then there are opinions about keeping things simple and clean – and of providing more visual content. And there’s another school of thought that looks at creating diagrams, charts, and other info-graphic content in a way that’s more effective as is the debate between linear and linked presentations. Each of these approaches is unique and very useful in their own way – and properly applied, each of them may make a difference. But in the same way that a physician will not prescribe a drug for common cold to a patient suffering from body pain, the makeover artist will first examine the slides and then suggest an approach that may use, discard, or combine these approaches.

Read more of this guest post I authored on the SlideShare blog...

Categories: online_presentations, powerpoint, slideshare

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posted by Geetesh on 11:14 AM IST

authorSTREAM, a site that lets you upload and share your PowerPoint presentations upped the ante today by offering a slew of new options:

Download original presentations: You can now download the original PowerPoint presentation (or other file) if the author of the content enables the relevant option (see figure below).

Download option at authorSTREAM
For your existing presentations uploaded to authorSTREAM, this option is turned off by default. You can however edit your presentation properties and check the option (see figure below).

Share on YouTube: You can also share your presentations on YouTube. This option is now available for presentations that include narration or rehearsed timings -- these presentations would automatically be available in a video format (MP4) that you can upload and share on YouTube.

Share on iPods: Again this option is only available for presentations that include narration or rehearsed timings.

Categories: online_presentations, powerpoint, youtube

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Monday, March 24, 2008
posted by Geetesh on 4:18 PM IST

Ric Bretschneider's newest podcast is now live on the Presentationsroundtable site.

In this podcast, Ric interviews Echo Swinford and Geetesh Bajaj about their new book, Microsoft Office 2007 Complete Makeover Kit. The discussion is essentially an enthusiastic and candid conversation on the state of makeovers today -- and how this book evolved.

The authors also explain more about the content of the book, and how readers can benefit from the makeover samples.

PowerPoint 2008 Makeover Kit

Make sure you put up a comment on the podcast page!

Categories: books, powerpoint_2007

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008
posted by Geetesh on 4:45 PM IST

Ppted's Solar System collection has been updated with extras! Take a look here to see...

Not only do you get five great template designs, you also get the actual backgrounds so that you can use the same designs elsewhere. In this collection, you also get wide screen templates and backgrounds, and ten transparent PNGs you can use in your presentations -- at no extra cost.


Transparent PNGs

None of the templates at are free -- these are all designer templates. I just wanted to say that because lots of readers write in to say that their Indezine passwords don't let them download all the Ppted templates for free!

Categories: powerpoint, templates

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